Every place I went in 2014 — in photos

In the continual swirl of work and life, it’s hard to gauge all that’s possible in a single year. A few places and experiences stood out for me in 2014, but I didn’t appreciate just how much I did until it was time to sit down and retrace my steps by going over a year’s worth of photos. Here’s a little taste of 44 places where I spent time in ’14.

My year began in the Lao capital, where I spent New Years Eve wandering the low-key lanes and waiting for the Thai embassy to sort out my media visa.

Nong Khai
Back in Thailand for the next six months, I spent a few days in the Mekong riverside town of Nong Khai. One of the highlights was the quirky yet awe-inspiring Sala Kaew Ku.

While on a motorbike trip west from Nong Khai, I fell for this sleepy riverside town.

Back home in the Thai capital, January’s “Bangkok Shutdown” began five months of continual street protests followed by a military coup in May. I covered the situation, from start to finish, in a number of posts for Travelfish. The new government’s actions have been questionable in more ways than one, but as a resident of the city, I was very relieved to get the streets and parks back from demonstrations that were more annoying than scary.

Ko Chang
Southeast Thailand’s “Elephant Island” was one of the larger destinations that I covered in 2014, finishing work that I’d begun in December on a second trip in February. While most of the action is on the west coast, the quieter east coast and its fishing villages left me charmed.

Ko Wai
A boat ride away from Ko Chang, Ko Wai was the first of several little-known yet beautiful islands that I would discover for the first time in ’14.

Ko Mak
I also had a great time exploring Ko Mak, one of those rare islands that’s extremely beautiful but not so popular. It just soothes you to the bone.

Back on the mainland, I found intriguing architecture and history in Thailand’s most southeasterly province, which was part of the French empire for a time in the late 19th century. Also, lots of pig’s heads.

Ban Chuen
We stopped in this underrated beach town on a trip to the “narrowest part of Thailand,” just over some hills from Cambodia. After buying a bundle of fresh crabs to take home and cook, we felt bad and decided to let them go.

Ko Si Boya
It was back to the islands in March, this time to the Andaman side and the ultra-laid-back island of Si Boya.

Ko Jum
Next door to Si Boya, I found the island of Ko Jum (aka Ko Pu) to be an ideal mix of great beaches, quiet fishing villages, friendly locals and bungalows that made me want to stay for an extra week or three.

Ko Lanta
This large and spectacular Andaman Sea island took me almost two weeks to cover. The update also took longer to write than any I’ve done to date; I see it as the centerpiece of my ’14 Travelfish coverage. Instead of featuring one of a dozen beaches, I’ve chosen a view from atop the cliffs in Ta Noad Cape at the far southern tip of the island.

When high season winded down in April, Chin and I took several day or overnight trips closer to Bangkok. The first was to sample the food at century-old Sam Chuek Market.

Samut Songkhram
It might be Thailand’s smallest province, but it produces enough fruit to satiate the millions over in Bangkok. We took advantage with some pick-your-own lychees.

Samut Sakhon
We stopped at more fruit orchards here, including some coconut and papaya groves, and a floating vineyard that we spontaneously toured by boat.

This pungent seaside town was the perfect place to do some shrimp paste tasting.

Nakhon Pathom
For the fourth time in five years, I returned to a chedi that’s one of the largest, oldest and most historically significant in Thailand.

Pak Chong
Chin and I also spent a couple of weekends near Khao Yai, an area that’s become our go-to destination when we desperately need to see trees and hear the sound of crickets.

Hua Hin
My next work trip, in June, was to this beach-side resort city that’s not my favorite place in the world. It does have an atmospheric train station though.

Sam Roi Yot
I continued down the Gulf of Thailand coast to the cluster of limestone mountains known as “Three Hundred Peaks.” The caves and coastline were stunning, but the most memorable views came from the far north and western sides of the park.

Kaeng Krachan
On June 28, Chin joined me and we traveled into the remote western mountains that form the Burma border and give rise to Thailand’s largest national park. The day was spent chasing butterflies and climbing the many tiers of Pala U Waterfall. That night, just after checking into a strange log cabin that we stumbled upon in the middle of nowhere, I received word that my Father had died suddenly back in Massachusetts. We later reflected on how, at around the exact same moment that he passed, we watched a wild bull elephant emerge from the jungle.

Western Massachusetts
Within 48 hours I was back in New England, helping to prepare for a funeral and memorial service, spending time with family, and driving down dirt roads to cope with the sadness.

After the memorial service, my Aunt and I found time to drive out to this quaint (and ritzy) town in northeastern Mass., where we ate lobster rolls and took pictures of boats before visiting my brother and his family in Newburyport.

A close friend and I also took the long way up to my former home state of Vermont, stopping along Route 101 to glimpse the, um, Route 101 Waterfall. I photographed at least 20 waterfalls in Thailand during ’14; funny that the one to show up here should be from the good old Green Mountain State.

Returning to Thailand in August, we took a brief trip up to the town of Nan, which was a special treat as we don’t often make it up north. The ornate temples (including a hell display in one) were nice, but the highlight was encountering fighting rhinoceros beetles in the night market.

In this out-of-the-way little town, we found a homestay with a great room overlooking the Doi Phu Kha mountains and a green sea of rice.

Bo Kluea
Then we drove up to breathtaking peaks on rugged roads covered in silt from recent floods, and down into this remote village where a salt well has been in operation for hundreds of years.

Thailand’s northern region blends into the northeast in this rural province. Phu Kradueng National Park was closed, but we did visit “Loei’s Kunming” and enjoyed snail salad and many other upcountry specialties in the provincial capital’s night market.

Chiang Khan
Once an offbeat spot, this little town now attracts droves of domestic tourists; you can see why in this shot of the Mekong scenery at sunset. That’s Laos on the other side, by the way.

Dan Sai
After stopping for some views at Phu Ruea National Park, said to be the coldest place in Thailand, we spent a day in this small town that’s famous for its Phi Ta Khon (“Ghost Mask”) tradition. I was intrigued by the distinctive blend of Theravada Buddhism and animism / spirit worship that are so prevalent here. Even the Buddha image at Wat Phon Chai looked a little sinister.

September in Thailand is rainy. While covering the gritty north-central Thai city of P’lok, I was drenched with muddy water from the waste down when a passing pick-up took little pity on the wandering foreigner. Maybe that’s why I’m opting to include this shot of a very typical urban Thai house instead of one of the gorgeous temples or waterfalls found here.

After spending the worst of the rainy season in Bangkok, I set off in November on a whirlwind trip through Thailand’s far southwestern islands. It began in Trang, one of my favorite provincial capitals in the Kingdom, mainly thanks to the terrific food and coffee.

Ko Muk
Then it was back to the Andaman Sea, beginning with Muk and its fishing villages that haven’t changed much despite a growing number of tourists.

Ko Ngai
Next was Ngai, a beautiful but uninspiring island with a name that’s not easy to pronounce. This photo was actually shot near Ko Maa, a tiny karst islet just off the coast of Ngai where a school of tigerfish gathered round to catch a glimpse of the humans.

Ko Kradan
It was stormy for most of my time on Kradan, which gave me an excuse to sit around soaking up Wally’s sailor wisdom at Paradise Lost. The clouds cleared on the morning I left, allowing this shot of just how gorgeous the Trang islands can be.

Ko Rok
I also joined a couple of Americans, a Finn and a German on a snorkeling trip to these unspoilt twin islands located further out in the Andaman. Again it was overcast for most of the trip, but the snorkeling sites were still among the best I’ve experienced.

Ko Bulon Lae
Bulon is the most peaceful place in Thailand. Period.

Ko Lipe
Once my favorite all-round Thai island, I was sad to see that Lipe had become too popular for its own good, resulting in over-development among a number of other issues. Still, there’s no denying that it’s still tremendously beautiful in places.

Ko Rawi
One of Lipe’s larger neighbors was still completely untouched save the colorful longtail boats that nuzzle up to its white sand.

Ko Adang
Most people favor the view over to Lipe from Ko Adang’s Chadoe Cliff, but I preferred this shot back towards the mainland and the imposing Ko Tarutao.

Ko Tarutao
This enormous and mountainous island that looms just north of Malaysian water was my final island of ’14. Rather than show another idyllic beach scene, I’ve chosen this shot of a drooping building that housed convicted criminals when Talo Wao Cape was a work-camp prison in the early 20th century. When supplies stopped reaching them during World War II, I learned, many of the prisoners and guards became dreaded pirates.

The mainland town where you catch boats to Lipe is not very attractive or welcoming, but these fish cleaners were just lovely.

It was fitting that my final destination of 2014 was in the far southwest of Thailand, where most people are Muslim and many speak Malay.

In retrospect, 2014 was an eventful year that took me to several far corners of Thailand and many places in between, plus a hint of Laos and a trip home to New England that sadly came sooner than planned. I dedicate all of these memories to Dad, who was always the first to encourage my adventures abroad. I miss him dearly. 2015 promises many more trips and the enriching experiences that go with them. I’ll part with one last shot from Bangkok to tuk tuk you into the New Year. I wish you good health and the chance to expand your horizons.

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